Nobody will have failed to notice that a number of major developments are underway in the District. Some argue that this shows progress and investment, which is crucial to regeneration of our town – but at what hidden cost? Local residents living near the historic Leas Pavilion, which was a beautiful heritage venue supported by many outstanding performers, have become increasingly frustrated by poor communication over legitimate concerns relating to the planning, public safety and construction management aspects of this project. We’ve invited them to contribute to a ‘Diary’ of events and progress with this significant building site. Watch this space.
A new report by Levitt Bernstein, a distinguished practice of architects, landscape designers and urban designers, suggests it may be timely to rethink the proposals for permitted development proposals, with signs that the government may already be getting cold feet.
The issue is in some ways complex, but in general amounts to the obvious question – Is a free-for-all system which allows buildings designed, specified and built for one purpose to be changed to a very different usage really desirable or practicable?
Read this interesting and cogent professional opinion – and make your own mind up!
Today sees the publication of the AFRA analysis and report on the draft Place Plan published on Monday.
This can be found using the link here – or via the Menu – INFO & LINKS page…. we hope you find it interesting and that it gives some insight into the key content of this lengthy and significant document.
Consultation on this final stage edition closes on August 20th – so do consider getting your response in as soon as practicable.
What is it that lies at the heart of AFRA? It’s simple: people who care about our community, regardless of their politics or personal situation.
AFRA members are all highly active members of the community… so it’s not surprising they get stuck into the issues which really need to be dealt with. At the same time, we also put forward suggestions at a strategic level – the right sort of planning which would eliminate many of these problems before they happen!
Examples of ongoing AFRA campaigns – which tend to get a positive response – working with the District and Town Council and other community groups…..
Some of our website visitors may find this report by the New Local (formerly New Local Government) group into community engagement interesting reading.
AFRA is continuing as a group to press for a better approach to consultation over the future of the Town.
While welcoming the initiation of some consultation work intended to contribute to the Place Plan, there is more work needed if this is to be a credible exercise. Many individuals have already pointed to many oversights or errors in detail; this highlights some of the problems in the approach used.
In recent weeks, several members and associates of AFRA have been seeking to engage in the consultation on the future of Folkestone Town Centre. As always, we have taken a constructive position – welcoming the principle and highlighting the importance of this for our town.
Inevitably, some mistakes have been made in the course of this work – we have politely drawn these to the attention of the consultants and the District Council. We have opened the door to discussions on how to remediate these – our message to key Councillors and the lead consultancy is published below.
We need a transparent consultation which starts and ends with the views and wishes of local people – not just those with influence or possible vested interests.
We need a plan which truly recognises the amenities, assets and community collateral of this wonderful place
We need to respect our heritage and history, which will be a key building block for the future – as visitor attractions, community centres and meeting points.
We need a commitment to building a great future together – with the community and for the community – for Folkestone: Our Town, Our Future.
Cllr. David Monk and Emily Temperton (We Made That consultancy)
I am writing, after discussion among AFRA partners, to provide observations on the current consultation concerning Folkestone Town Centre. If you are not familiar with AFRA, the group is very simply an informal alliance of residents groups, also working with civic groups where we have common interest.
We take an apolitical and non-partisan stance on issues of shared concern or shared opportunity. The future of the town centre of Folkestone is clearly such an issue, being of real significance for everyone who lives in our community, works in the District or visits the area. The statement attached and this email are being shared with a number of interested parties and will also be shared with our media contacts and posted on our website shortly.
We Made That
Council lead officers and group leaders for each of the main political parties at Folkestone and Hythe District Council
Council lead officers and group leaders for each of the main political parties at Folkestone Town Council
A number of our partners and others with an interest in the community consultation process
Firstly, we very much welcome the principle of consultation, given the significance of this work which will play a large part in shaping the town for present and future generations.
Secondly, after some involvement in online sessions which form part of the consultation process, we would wish to put on record a sense of some emerging concerns. The current consultation process frankly does not seem to be meeting the needs of the community adequately in terms of preparation and research, inclusion of key groups or transparency of process and information access. There are in fact indications of some regrettable major oversights – which can of course be remedied, but have coloured some of the responses we are aware of – as you will be:
The lack of any reference to the impact of CoVid on the community, investment and changes in economic context going forward
The omission of significant aspects of the town’s heritage and character, notably including St Eanswythes Church where you will also find the original Folkestone Town Cross
A seemingly marginal involvement of Folkestone Town Council in this consultation, despite the Town Hall itself being at the epicentre of the area under discussion.
The failure to provide a reasonable supply of information in the public domain on the process and progress of this work
There are other matters, which no doubt individuals and other groups will have brought to your attention. As such, we would suggest that the process really now needs urgently to be reviewed.
AFRA seeks as a point of principle to offer constructive criticism and to be part of the solution in looking at opportunities for community development.
You’ll see that our statement recognises the significance of this work – and hopefully you will understand that these comments are intended to be helpful. We look forward to your response – the AFRA group is currently considering with others the possible need for additional consultation mechanisms.
We would be happy to discuss this further. With kind regards
For those interested in the levers and mechanisms governing development, there are links provided here fo the white paper Changes to the Current Planning System consultation, which closed recently. The key information on proposals are contained a further second stage consultation on the Planning for the Future white paper and its consultation, which closes at 11.45pm on 29 October.
As these matters affect our lives and our environment for generations to come, we hope this information will be useful and that some of our readers will respond with their views on these proposed changes.
The idea behind Community Champions was very easy to come up with.
We all know someone who regularly makes your day – just does something or says something habitually which brightens everything up. They go above and beyond the call of duty or what you might expect: the postman, the grocer, the neighbour… And in the recent months during the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, these were great people. They might say that they did nothing special, that they just did their job. But they did more than that. They all in their different ways made a difference to other peoples lives – and for that, we thank them.
You’ll find their stories in the gallery below. We hope to have more to share with you, as we pick up recommendations from members of their community and have the pleasure and privilege of saying very simply:
“Thank you for making a difference to everyday life. “
The Community Champions scheme is sponsored by The Woodshed Gallery, a Folkestone small business – and we are grateful to them for their generosity. We are looking for other sponsors to pick up the baton so that we can carry on appreciating these great people in our community.
Each of our Champions receives a certificate and a voucher towards a meal at one of the L&B group of eating houses: The Pullman, Lubens Pizza house, The Market Square, The Harbour Inn and their new venture at Tin and Tap.